Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Report Upends Standard Take on Cap and Trade Loss

A editorial calls Climate Shift: Clear Vision for the Next Decade of Public Debate by American University Professor Matthew Nisbet “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate-change debate.” The new research challenges the commonly-held view that cap and trade legislation failed because of the spending advantages of opponents and false balance in news coverage.

“There is a tendency among environmentalists and scientists to blame political inaction on the spending advantage enjoyed by conservatives and on false balance in media coverage,” says Nisbet.

“However, this analysis shows that the effort by environmentalists to pass cap and trade may have been the best financed political cause in history and that news coverage of climate change overwhelmingly reflected the consensus view among scientists.”

As leaders and experts consider next steps in the climate change debate, the report is intended to inform decision making. The report’s analysis finds that although there was once “false balance” in coverage, since 2003 that has not been the case. It also shows that in 2009, the national environmental groups working on climate change out-fundraised and out-spent conservative think tanks, groups and industry associations aligned against cap and trade legislation on climate change and energy policy efforts.

The report also examines the decision making of nine aligned major foundations, led by ClimateWorks, which funded a network of organizations advocating for a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, these major foundations have been as strategic in targeting specific policy outcomes as even conservative philanthropists such as the Koch brothers,” says Nisbet. “Yet this focus and strategy has overlooked several key dimensions of societal action.”

Pairing rigorous, in-depth research with an accessible narrative, the report is designed for an audience beyond the Ivory Tower. As a social scientist, Nisbet studies strategic communication in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over science, the environment and public health. Since 2007 he’s examined public opinion and climate change, looking at the influence of the media and how groups can effectively communicate about the issue. He has published articles in peer-reviewed journals, blogged, written popular press articles, and given talks. The author of more than three dozen peer-reviewed studies, he serves on the editorial boards of Science Communication and the International Journal of Press/Politics. His research is funded by the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, where he serves as a Health Policy Investigator. In 2011, he was named a Google Science Communication Fellow in recognition of his work on climate change.

Nisbet estimates that the nine foundations distributed at least $368 million between 2008 and 2010 to organizations working on climate change and energy policy. More than half this funding was given to just 25 groups, 14 of which were national leaders in the effort to pass cap and trade legislation. As the top recipient of funding, nearly one out of every 10 dollars ($34.6 million) went to the Bipartisan Policy Center, exceeding the $31.3 million distributed by Koch-affiliated foundations to all conservative organizations active on climate change between 2005 and 2009. (Exxon Mobil gave $8.9 million during this period).

Yet the 50-page strategy document that guided the foundations’ investments, according to Nisbet’s analysis, was notable for its “absence of any discussion of social, political or cultural dimensions of the challenge.” As his analysis shows, there were comparatively limited amounts of funding focused on the role of government in promoting new technology and innovation. Nor was there equivalent investment in adaptation, health, equity, justice, job creation or economic development.

Nisbet’s report additionally reviews the likely causes for the decline in public concern and belief in climate change in recent years. As he finds, opinion trends show historically that concern with the environment declines appreciably with a rise in unemployment levels, as was the case in 2009 and 2010. And, while Republicans are deservedly blamed for promoting polarization on the issue, admired Democratic leaders also shoulder responsibility. Since 2002, Al Gore has consistently sought to mobilize progressives politically, pairing his messages about climate science with attacks on Republicans.

Nisbet also examines how ideology, just as it does among the general public, shapes the views and the interpretations of climate change advocates. Analyzing a representative survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Nisbet concludes that a strongly one-sided ideological outlook likely leads many scientists and environmentalists to overlook how economic trends and their own actions might diminish public concern, and instead focus on presumed flaws in media coverage or the activities of conservatives. Moreover, as organizations such as the AAAS train and encourage their members to engage in public outreach, most participants are likely to view politics very differently from the audiences with which they are trying to communicate, a challenge that merits greater attention as part of these trainings.

The report can be found at The study was funded by a $100,000 grant from the Ecological Innovation program at the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D., is Associate Professor in the School of Communication at American University. As a social scientist, he studies strategic communication in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over science, the environment and public health. The author of more than three dozen peer-reviewed studies, he serves on the editorial boards of Science Communication and the International Journal of Press/Politics. His research is funded by the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, where he serves as a Health Policy Investigator. In 2011, he was named a Google Science Communication Fellow in recognition of his work on climate change. He holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Communication from Cornell University and an A.B. in Government from Dartmouth College.

American University is a leader in global education, enrolling a diverse student body from throughout the United States and nearly 140 countries. Located in Washington, D.C., the university provides opportunities for academic excellence, public service, and internships in the nation’s capital and around the world.

Wes Hickman | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>